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It's time to bring back fitness programs that center underrepresented groups

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The opinions expressed in the opinion columns are those of the author.

University of Maryland students are robbed. I don’t mean financially by the ridiculous tuition costs, price of textbooks or exorbitant real estate prices this don’t even always have air conditioning. In addition to the many high profile issues that this university has failed to address, it also has many smaller and less high profile issues. This university denies its students, non-binary and trans students their right to comfortable physical activity, which is crucial to maintaining both a healthier life mental and physical well-being in a post-COVID-19 era of isolation.

It’s no secret that co-ed gyms can be dominated by men, with the fitness industry following suit ever since. High at bottom. A Bar Bend A survey of women in the gym found that 87.2% of respondents said they felt unsafe in the gym and 75% said they were heckled or called out at least once a week in the gym. More than half of those surveyed either changed their workout schedules or changed their clothing to mitigate possible harassment.

This university must prioritize the health of its students, especially those who are marginalized, by implementing a consistent and inclusive bodybuilding program for those whose identities have traditionally been underrepresented in the weight room.

Before the pandemic, Sara Kohorst and Rachel Edsall, then elderly launched a program called “Uplift” Saturday mornings for women and students of other underrepresented identities for the chance to lift weights with nearby personal trainers.

And yet the year is 2022, and there are no whispers of the promising Uplift program that ended as a victim of the pandemic and graduating seniors to the point that its page requested can no longer be found.

Since Uplift operated on pro bono and booked the School of Public Health for two-hour windows, a fundamental lack of structural support from the university is to blame for its demise.

This university owes its students — and its overbooked counseling center – the benefits that come with structuring a program similar to Uplift for students.

First, a new program similar to Uplift cannot be volunteer-based like the old one. Instead, Eppley superiors and the Kinesiology Department should offer an accredited class or stipend to qualified upper-level students to be the trainers.

Since potential trainers are from the same demographic as the participants, potential gym goers will receive personal training from knowledgeable and reliable trainers. All of these prospective student coaches would be trained and supervised by certified coaches, ensuring quality workouts for participants.

It’s no secret that this campus is already working with students. From resident and community assistants in the dorms to teaching assistants who grade your class work, this university has a highly capable student workforce of approximately 4,300. Clearly, we can continue to develop this workforce and utilize the university’s greatest resource: its brilliant students. As evidenced by the many kinesiology activities Classes offered by the university, we obviously produce some of the best minds and bodies in physical training. It would be a waste not to use them and their knowledge to improve both fitness and justice before these students graduate.

Additionally, the structured nature of a potential course would allow it to be offered several times a week. Greater flexibility could lead to greater participation in these invigorated Uplift sessions, which could correspond to a higher proportion of underrepresented demographics becoming more confident when hitting the dreaded testosterone-filled weight room.

In a school that already has endemic problems with the erasure of sexual assault on the part of the administration, Eppley Recreation Center and the Department of Kinesiology have the ability to make a lasting difference in the health of its students. A program bringing more women and non-binary people to the weight room could help boost the self-esteem and fitness of some of its most vulnerable students.

This university must relaunch the Uplift program on a permanent basis with a student-worker system structured to meet its vision to become a “university that fully embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion as morally just and educationally sound, and that focuses on the well-being of individuals and communities.”

Rohin Mishra is a second-year government student and an economics student. He can be contacted at